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A Mother's Love Stronger Than Cocaine?

Wow. So a mother’s love of her newborn is stronger than cocaine? According to new animal research it just may be. A study presented at “Neuroscience 2010″ suggests that the presence of a mother’s young, changed the way she responded to drugs.

Researchers and Northeastern University gave rats cocaine and cultivated in them an association between the drugs and a peppermint smell to the point where smelling peppermint made the drug-fiending part of their brains light up in brain-imaging scans. This always worked. Except in new rat mothers. These mothers would smell the peppermint but the part of the brain associated with drugs and craving did not light up.

The research is being used towards finding new avenues of treatment for mothers who are recovering drug addicts.

“Drug relapse is especially problematic for recovering drug users who are mothers,” said graduate student Martha Caffrey, who led the study. “Maternal care has a profound influence on the offspring’s long-term outcome, and insufficient or inappropriate maternal care leads to detrimental changes in their neural structure, and may lay the groundwork for dysfunction in future generations,” she said.

I guess my question is, why is drug relapse such a problem for new mothers if their brains have been so effectively re-wired? How long are new mothers temporarily re-wired? Is it a matter of weeks in the newborn period? Does it go on for years? What are the other factors? Other recent research suggests that the sacrifices and endless work we do for our children are fueled by our “addiction” to small rushes of oxytocin, the nurturing hormone that’s involved in bonding and attachment. It’s also released in breastfeeding, during labor and orgasm.

I wonder if there will be new drug treatments that involve injecting addicts with maternal hormones?

photo:BenjaminThompson/flickr

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